When I got back from my recent visit to the Salon de Saveurs, I could hardly wait to try out all the exciting products I had purchased. As mentioned earlier, I found the balsamic reduction from Mille et Une Huiles to be fantastic with asparagus. That was our starter on Saturday night. And our main course was designed to set off another product, a chutney de citron from Fan & Jicé Robin. This couple hail from the Cevennes region in the mountains of southwest France, a gorgeous source for creamy goat cheeses, figs, and, as it turns out, spicy lemon jam.
I don't know about the rest of you but I always associate the word "chutney" with Indian spices. In this case, it just indicates "spicy", not Indian. In fact, it was very spicy. It started out lemony and slightly peppery and slowly grew in warmth. The perfect sauce for my spice-loving Critic. I decided that fish would be the perfect partner and opted for some thick slabs of pink salmon.
And just in case I was wrong about how great the hot lemon chutney would be with the fish, I also prepared my absolute favourite Nigel Slater sauce: his Salsa Verde.
I would apologize to Nigel for publishing this great recipe, but firstly I never copy it exactly (I've got it more or less from memory now) and in any case I'm going to include a nifty link to his cookbooks so that if you like this you can buy the book. Free publicity - why should he complain?
Nigel Slater's Salsa Verde as interpreted by Yours Truly
1 large bunch of parsley (I like the flat leaf as it has a nicer texture)
1 medium bunch of basil
6 sprigs of mint
2-3 cloves of garlic
3 tbs capers, drained
1 heaping Tbs grain mustard
12-14 anchovies, drained (basically a small tin minus the one or two that you really do need to taste to make sure they are okay, right?)
juice of half a lemon
about 1/3 cup peppery olive oil
a sprinkle of freshly ground pepper
Put the herbs minus their stalks in a food processor with all the rest of the ingredients except the olive oil and lemon. Add a squeeze of lemon and about half the oil and zap it. Add olive oil and lemon juice to taste. It should be a thick sludge of green herby goodness, with some small leaves still intact. When I first made the sauce, I thought it should be smooth and mourned the fact that my food processor was too large and couldn't purée the ingredients properly. Stupid me. When I made it in the jar of the immersion blender and achieved a smooth conisistency it was much less interesting a sauce. The flavours seemed to fight each other and you lost that sense of a chaotic mess of herbs. So keep it a little rough and ready.
What initially intrigued me about this sauce was the mint. All the rest of the ingredients made sense together, but mint...? It works, trust me. It's delicious on fish, on white meats, on potatoes, on a spoon in your mouth.
As for the fish, I simply squeezed a little lemon juice on it, covered it with tin foil and baked it in the oven for about 15 minutes. The spicy lemon chutney was a distinct hit, as was my salsa. Fish with two sauces: it doesn't get much better!
Note: the above recipe made about a cup of sauce, which was more than we needed for three helpings of fish (it has a very intense flavour and you don't need much). It keeps for about a week in the fridge providing you keep it covered.